Visits to UK stores flatlined at a level far below prepandemic trends in July as Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, industry figures show.
Retail footfall fell 0.4% percentage point from June and was 28% less than two years earlier, figures from the British Retail Consortium and Sensormatic IQ showed.
The biggest decline was at retail parks where visits dropped 6.9 points from June and 15% from two years earlier. High streets had a 1.2-point month-on-month fall and at shopping centres footfall was down 2.6 points.
The end of almost all coronavirus restrictions happened about halfway through the period covered on 19 July, raising hopes of higher consumer spending. But continuing uncertainty over government guidance and volatile weather appear to have contributed to consumers’ wariness in hitting the shops after what the government called “freedom day”.
Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s chief executive, said: “After improvements in footfall in the early part of 2021, the situation has plateaued with little change in footfall levels for a third month in a row. The turbulent weather, with initial heatwaves giving over to torrential rain, appears to have dampened the mood.”
Britain’s retailers have been hammered by the Covid-19 crisis, leading to one in seven shops sitting unoccupied. Dickinson called on the government to integrate leisure, retail, services and homes to rebuild communities and ease the burden of business rates.
Andy Sumpter, a consultant at Sensormatic, said: “Freedom Day may have split consumer confidence, with those revelling in newfound freedoms increasing the frequency of their shopping trips, while those concerned about the relaxation of restrictions on social distancing and mask-wearing becoming more inclined to stay away.”